We watched a very pretty sunset over the lake, then turned the car back towards Austin and our hotel, and a nose for some Texas BBQ. We found it at Rudy's, a cute place just 5 minutes away from our hotel. Their brisket was fantastic! They are also known for the creamed corn and we were not disappointed. Fresh and sweet and downright decadent. I grew up only knowing canned cream corn and to be honest, that stuff makes me want to puke right here and right now. So I have been loathe to even consider eating the stuff as an adult. But I am glad I tried "homemade" creamed corn. It's like night and day.
While we were in Austin, for some reason, it dawned on me that we were in Texas (duh), and the next night we were going to be staying down near Houston so we'd get a jump on our drive the following day to New Orleans. When I think of Houston these days, I think of Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church. He's a non-denominational Christian minister with a national presence, including televised recordings of his weekly "sermons." He is not like any other television preacher, nor like any other minister, rabbi or priest that I've ever seen. He's more like a life coach with great motivational speeches. I just plain like him. His weekly messages are applicable to all persons of all faiths. Anyway, it occurred to me that maybe we could go see him, if he was in town, etc. So I looked up the church website, looked up the schedule and lo and behold, he was in town, and was scheduled for both Saturday night services as well as Sunday mornings. Bada Bing! We made our plans and went to sleep that night looking forward to our tour of Austin the next morning, and our evening with Joel the next night.
Houston and Austin are about 3 hours apart. We didn't have but about a half day in Austin, so we opted for a downtown Hop On Hop Off tour of the city. It was a beautiful morning, and we had fun touring around on the bus, listening to some history of the city, and seeing the sights. Austin is a hip and happening city - lots of tech companies there, lots of great music happening there. The city is compact yet seems spread out at the same time. It also is home to a large university and the young energy that comes with university towns was evident. Austin is the 11th largest capitol in the U.S. Chili is the state food of Texas, did y'all know that? The only reason Texas became a part of the United States is because it was out of resources to fight another battle (after the Alamo) with Mexico, and it didn't want Mexico to capture it, so when the U.S made the offer, Texas agreed to join the U.S.
One other tidbit about Austin - it is the home of the original Whole Foods. It started in early 1970's and was named Safer Foods. In 1980 they changed their name to Whole Foods and began gobbling up smaller similar stores across the country (anyone remember Mrs. Gooch?) and expanding to become the presence they are today.
When the tour was over, we decided to head out of town, as a big college football game was happening that night and traffic was starting to get heavy, with all the tailgaters heading in pre-game, and setting up. The LBJ Library is in Austin, and it, too, was closed because of the game. I guess you just don't mess with college football in Texas.
State Capitol Building
Along the way to Houston we stopped off for lunch at a roadside diner for some last bit of Texas BBQ. More brisket and grilled sausage, the stuff is just fantastic!!!
We arrived in Houston with about an hour to spare before it was time to go to Lakewood. The church is HUGE, and right alongside a main artery highway near downtown. Our hotel was close by, and it only took us a few minutes to get there after we got settled in.
As first time visitors to this church, they encourage you to come down front and sit in the first 10-12 rows. Don't think church here - think large indoor concert stadium. This place holds - I don't know - 20,000? A LOT. We were there early, so we had time to browse in their bookstore. Lots of interesting stuff laid out nicely in subject sections. I picked up one of Joel's Quote a Day inspirational quotes books.
The service started promptly on time at 7:00 PM. For the first 15 minutes or so, the band played and rocked out with the choir. It was like going to a rock concert! Even the light show rivaled some of the better bands I saw from the 70's! Good stuff. Later, to close out the 90 minute service, Joel spoke for about half an hour. His message this week was how not to let strife into your life. Because if you do, it results in disunity and discord in your home, in your life. Like I said before, the messages are applicable for everyone, across all faiths.
After the service, we RACED upstairs to get into line to meet Joel in person. We had been instructed earlier about where to go to line up and how you need to get there quickly, because they only allow in a certain number of people and then close the line. We made the cut! And we got to meet Joel. Up close, he's a VERY soft spoken man, very very nice. He signed our books, took a minute to shake our hands, ask where we were from, and chatted briefly. I just got a big thrill out of the experience.
A great evening!